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Members of the European Parliament visit #Kazakhstan as part of their regional tour

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The delegation representing the Committee for International Cooperation of the EP, including European MEPs from Romania, Portugal, Spain, Poland, Latvia and the United Kingdom, arrived with a first visit to Kazakhstan in order to develop interparliamentary cooperation and to exchange iexperience in the field of lawmaking.

The schedule of the MEPs includes meetings with the leadership of the Mazhilis (lower house) of the Parliament of Kazakhstan, the relevant committees of the Senate (upper house) of the Parliament of Kazakhstan, the Mazhilis, the Prosecutor General's Office and the Ministry of Social Development. The delegation will also visit Nazarbayev University and the Kazakh National University Al-Farabi, as well as Kazakhstan's analytical centers.

During the meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the sides discussed the current issues of the international agenda, including the activities of Kazakhstan in the UN Security Council, the Syrian settlement process within the Astana process, the restoration of a peaceful life in Afghanistan, the development of a new EU Strategy for Central Asia, dialogue, including in the sphere of the rule of law, promotion of the values of democracy, ensuring human rights and freedoms.

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In his welcoming address, Kairat Abdrakhmanov stressed the importance of interparliamentary exchanges of opinions, as well as of the establishment of an open and confidential dialogue regarding all issues of interest. At the same time, the Minister noted that “inter-parliamentary cooperation makes a significant contribution to strengthening cooperation based on mutual interests and common values, promotes mutual understanding and achievement of concrete results".

In this context, the results of the 15th meeting of the Parliamentary Cooperation Committee “The Republic of Kazakhstan-European Union" held in Astana in May of this year were highly appreciated. In addition, delegations of national parliaments of Germany, Poland, Romania, Spain, Italy and Switzerland visited Kazakhstan since the beginning of the year, and were able to personally get acquainted with current processes in our country.

The European Union attaches a key importance to cooperation with Kazakhstan and closely monitors the processes taking place in the country, as well as international initiatives of the Republic of Kazakhstan aimed at strengthening peace and security, both at the regional and international levels.

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Members of the EP welcomed the modernization of political, economic and social life under the leadership of President Nursultan Nazarbayev and expressed confidence that these processes will contribute to the strengthening of mutual understanding and bilateral cooperation.

 

During the meetings, the parties also exchanged views on situations in Ukraine and Iran, as well as on the Korean Peninsula. Particular attention was given to the cooperation of the European Union and Kazakhstan within the framework of Assistance Programs on reconstruction of Afghanistan.

European and Kazakh parliamentarians expressed confidence that in the future interparliamentary cooperation will remain a solid groundwork in strengthening ties between Kazakhstan and the European Union.

During the meeting at the Majilis of the Parliament of Kazakhstan, the Chairman of the Commission on Human Rights under the President of Kazakhstan Kuanysh Sultanov briefed his European colleagues on reforms of the judicial and law enforcement systems being carried out by Kazakhstan.

During their meeting with the Deputy Prosecutor General Lukin, the members of the European Parliament received exhaustive answers to the questions they raised about human rights and particular judicial proceedings, including cases of Elena Semenova, Muratbek Tungishbaev, Max Bokaev and others. The fact that there are no “political prisoners” in Kazakhstan but those convicted or under investigation for specific criminal and corruption offenses was particularly stressed.

The delegation was also informed that torture, violence and other cruel or degrading treatment or punishment against any person is prohibited by the Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan. In addition, existing cases of ill-treatment against prisoners and other persons are thoroughly investigated, and those responsible were convicted with appropriate penalties.

The fact that Kazakhstan is open for cooperation with the European Parliament and other European and international institutions so as to objectively consider the cases that may cause concern was brought to the attention of the delegation.

Ambassador of Kazakhstan to Belgium Aigul Kuspan noted that the visit of European parliamentarians contributed to a constructive dialogue and an in-depth understanding of the ongoing processes in the country. The active exchange of parliamentary delegations gives an additional impetus to the further development of bilateral cooperation between Kazakhstan and the EU. The Permanent Mission of Kazakhstan to the EU pays specific attention to work aimed at strengthening of interparliamentary cooperation and actively assists the European partners in organizing meetings with representatives of public authorities, non-governmental organizations and civil society of Kazakhstan.

Thus, the issues of human rights and freedom of speech are on a regular basis transparently and constructively discussed within the framework of the EU-Kazakhstan Subcommittee on Justice and Rule of Law and of the Dialogue on Human Rights. Regular meetings of these bodies are scheduled for November 20-21, 2018 in Brussels.

In addition, at the invitation of the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the European Union, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Human Rights Pier Antonio Panzeri is expected to visit Astana this autumn. A visit of a mission of the General Prosecutor’s Office, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Justice of Kazakhstan to Brussels is expected to take place this November in order to discuss the issues of the rule of law and human rights at the European Parliament.

Regarding the episode that took place in Almaty during the visit of the MEPs and that was mentioned in the AFET’s press statement, the Mission of Kazakhstan to the EU states that the information about the alleged detention of some persons by police officers in order to prevent their meetings with members of the delegation does not correspond to reality. Moreover, the law enforcement bodies did not apply any measures towards those persons, who, in turn, did not lodge any complaints against the police officers.

 

European Commission

NextGenerationEU: European Commission disburses €231 million in pre-financing to Slovenia

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The European Commission has disbursed €231 million to Slovenia in pre-financing, equivalent to 13% of the country's grant allocation under the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF). The pre-financing payment will help to kick-start the implementation of the crucial investment and reform measures outlined in Slovenia's recovery and resilience plan. The Commission will authorise further disbursements based on the implementation of the investments and reforms outlined in Slovenia's recovery and resilience plan.

The country is set to receive €2.5 billion in total, consisting of €1.8bn in grants and €705m in loans, over the lifetime of its plan. Today's disbursement follows the recent successful implementation of the first borrowing operations under NextGenerationEU. By the end of the year, the Commission intends to raise up to a total of €80 billion in long-term funding, to be complemented by short-term EU-Bills, to fund the first planned disbursements to member states under NextGenerationEU.

The RRF is at the heart of NextGenerationEU which will provide €800bn (in current prices) to support investments and reforms across member states. The Slovenian plan is part of the unprecedented EU response to emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis, fostering the green and digital transitions and strengthening resilience and cohesion in our societies. A press release is available online.

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Cyprus

NextGenerationEU: European Commission disburses €157 million in pre-financing to Cyprus

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The European Commission has disbursed €157 million to Cyprus in pre-financing, equivalent to 13% of the country's financial allocation under the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF). The pre-financing payment will help to kick-start the implementation of the crucial investment and reform measures outlined in Cyprus' recovery and resilience plan. The Commission will authorise further disbursements based on the implementation of the investments and reforms outlined in Cyprus' recovery and resilience plan.

The country is set to receive €1.2 billion in total over the lifetime of its plan, with €1 billion provided in grants and €200m in loans. Today's disbursement follows the recent successful implementation of the first borrowing operations under NextGenerationEU. By the end of the year, the Commission intends to raise up to a total of €80bn in long-term funding, to be complemented by short-term EU-Bills, to fund the first planned disbursements to member states under NextGenerationEU. Part of NextGenerationEU, the RRF will provide €723.8bn (in current prices) to support investments and reforms across member states.

The Cypriot plan is part of the unprecedented EU response to emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis, fostering the green and digital transitions and strengthening resilience and cohesion in our societies. A press release is available online.

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Belgium

EU Cohesion policy: Belgium, Germany, Spain and Italy receive €373 million to support health and social services, SMEs and social inclusion

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The Commission has granted €373 million to five European Social Fund (ESF) and European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) operational programmes (OPs) in Belgium, Germany, Spain and Italy to help the countries with coronavirus emergency response and repair in the framework of REACT-EU. In Belgium, the modification of the Wallonia OP will make available an additional €64.8m for the acquisition of medical equipment for health services and innovation.

The funds will support small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in developing e-commerce, cybersecurity, websites and online stores, as well as the regional green economy through energy efficiency, protection of the environment, development of smart cities and low-carbon public infrastructures. In Germany, in the Federal State of Hessen, €55.4m will support health-related research infrastructure, diagnostic capacity and innovation in universities and other research institutions as well as research, development and innovation investments in the fields of climate and sustainable development. This amendment will also provide support to SMEs and funds for start-ups through an investment fund.

In Sachsen-Anhalt, €75.7m will facilitate cooperation of SMEs and institutions in research, development and innovation, and provide investments and working capital for micro-enterprises affected by the coronavirus crisis. Moreover, the funds will allow investments in the energy efficiency of enterprises, support digital innovation in SMEs and acquiring digital equipment for schools and cultural institutions. In Italy, the national OP ‘Social Inclusion' will receive €90m to promote the social integration of people experiencing severe material deprivation, homelessness or extreme marginalisation, through ‘Housing First' services that combine the provision of immediate housing with enabling social and employment services.

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In Spain, €87m will be added to the ESF OP for Castilla y León to support the self-employed and workers who had their contracts suspended or reduced due to the crisis. The money will also help hard-hit companies avoid layoffs, especially in the tourism sector. Finally, the funds are needed to allow essential social services to continue in a safe way and to ensure educational continuity throughout the pandemic by hiring additional staff.

REACT-EU is part of NextGenerationEU and provides €50.6bn additional funding (in current prices) to Cohesion policy programmes over the course of 2021 and 2022. Measures focus on supporting labour market resilience, jobs, SMEs and low-income families, as well as setting future-proof foundations for the green and digital transitions and a sustainable socio-economic recovery.

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